Just as I’ve built two hotels on London’s dark blue Mayfair, you get up to answer your phone and knock the edge of the Monopoly board. All the pieces cascade onto the floor.
You pretend not to care whether you win or lose but that’s because you always win. ‘Never mind,’ you say to me. ‘Next time.’
I scrabble on the floor to retrieve the pieces. Now there’s something I’d win, Scrabble. You know I would so that box lies untouched in the cupboard.
When I’m alone, safely locked in the house, I study the instructions of the games in regular use hoping to win one day but if I ever get anywhere near that triumphant conclusion, you carefully and quietly disrupt it and pack up the pieces.
The game we play every day doesn’t have written rules making it the hardest of all and the one I most need to win. When at last, through careful observation, I understand those unwritten imperatives, you change them.
On Wednesdays when you lock the door behind you, having given me a list of all the things I must do while you’re gone, I work on a new game. I visualise the board like my old Snakes and Ladders. It has rules but they’ll stay unwritten too. It takes me weeks to compile, eliminating loopholes and inconsistencies, but eventually they’re complete and I’m ready. There are one hundred squares on my invisible board.
I time Square One with precision because if I mess up, I’ll be stranded. I imagine mariners in days gone by, wrecked on a desert island waving at passing ships in the hope of rescue, not knowing when the next will pass by. You don’t notice me playing the new game, because we’ve always played yours.
I play strategically while you remain in ignorance. It’s a Thursday when I leave the house carrying two bags, one containing a Scrabble set nestled among a few clothes. It’s not until I reach Square Eighty that I dare breathe in the belief that I have come this far but there are still twenty steps before I complete my journey.
© Lindsay Bamfield